Thursday, August 16, 2012

Kindergarten circa 1980

In honor of my son’s first day of elementary school, I have been reminiscing about my own first day of school.  Although it was 32 years ago and my memory is a bit foggy, I do have a photo that reminds me of a few things that happened that day.

I lived on a cul-de-sac just 2 blocks from my school, North City Elementary. In those days, anyone could play on the playground. My mother would take us to the playground or running on the track ever since I could remember. So I was very familiar with the school grounds. Two of the other families on the cul-de-sac had children who were already attending the school.

My parents dressed me up in a cute little dress. I had a letter attached to my jacket with a safety pin that was for the teacher. I’m not sure what it said, but I can guess it was my name and address or some sort of identification. We took pictures at the top of my driveway and then I was off to school. It was only natural that all the kids in my neighborhood would walk to school. My parents had arranged for the neighbor kids to walk with me on that first day, and I did walk to school with them on most days. The oldest two were in fifth grade and the younger two in third or second grade if memory serves.

My school had one kindergarten classroom and there were 35 – 40 students in it. We had one main teacher and about 3 teacher assistants. The class was divided up into different learning areas, each teacher was in charge of a different learning area. Our class was half day, but somehow we also managed to get a nap in while we were there. We played on the same playground the older kids used, although I think we went at a different time than they did.

When the school day was over, my mom walked down with my 2 year old sister to greet me. I don’t remember how often she met me. She was also pregnant the year I was in kindergarten and my baby sister was born on June 29th. I cannot imagine my mom with a toddler and in her third trimester of pregnancy coming to meet me after school every day that year. My mom also recollects that she was terribly sick during all of her pregnancies… again, not so sure she was able to come and meet me every day after school. I am positive that there were days I left kindergarten and walked home alone.

When I started school, a flyer was sent home for parents to order metal identification bracelets. I got one a few weeks later and It had my name, address and phone number on it. Just in case I got lost. I lived in the suburbs of Seattle in a little area called Shoreline. It was not the safest place in the city, but the schools had good marks and my parents purchased a nice large home, perfect for a budding family. I was the oldest, so I remember not being allowed to do things that, later my younger sisters did way before my age. My mom didn’t let me pierce my ears until I was 10 years old. We went to church religiously – several times a week even! I started Kindergarten in 1980, two years after Ted Bundy was caught killing girls in the Seattle area and during the same time that the Green River Killer was killing girls, mostly prostitutes in the Seattle area and leaving them for dead in the Green River. The times were not necessarily safe and the newspaper definitely had a lot of doom and gloom. Yet, it was normal for a child of 5 years old to walk to school and if needed, walk home alone.

Cut to 2012… My son is now 5 years old and entering school on Monday. Since day one, my parenting goal has been to help him become a happy, independent and responsible adult. Somewhere along the last few years, I was introduced to the "Free Range Kids" movement. I loved the freedom I had in my childhood, and I want the same for my children. I spoke to my parents about my first day of school and how I walked to school without an adult. They immediately defended the situation with, but you were with the neighbors, and we didn't live in a big city like... Encinitas. Let me just say, the current population of Encinitas is only about 15% larger than the population of Shoreline, WA in 1980. My parents could never imagine me letting their precious grandchildren walk to or from school with each other. At least not until they are much, much older.

Recently, I visited my son’s new school. I was informed that in kindergarten, if an approved adult is not present to pick up the child, the child will not leave the premises.  I wondered, when can the children walk with a friend or sibling, to and from school?  The principal’s response was: “it is not a good idea until at least 3rd grade.” He cited some stuff about them being legally responsible for the child until they return to their parents or guardian. Really? Wow, I never would have guessed that! I’m not one to buck the norm, but I really had hoped my son would learn some independence this year. I guess I will be turning to 4-H for some of that and later Cub Scouts. I really do love his school so far, so I will wait to see how things go. Things have definitely changed!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Fluffy Pancakes

I was browsing my Better Homes & Garden's New Cook Book circa 1971 this morning, looking for some inspiration. Pancakes sounded yummy, but I am out of my premix and worried that it would be a pain to make them from scratch... Much to my surprise, it was a piece of cake and tasted like one too! After making these, I am never going back to premixed again. Seriously, they were that good!!!


1-1/4 cup flour
3 Tbsp baking powder
1 Tbsp Sugar
1 tsp ground flax meal (optional)
1/2 tsp salt
1 beaten egg
1 cup milk
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla

While you are heating up your griddle, sift together dry ingredients (I combined 1/4 cup whole wheat flour along with 1 cup white flour to make them a little healthier). Combine egg, milk, oil and vanilla; add to dry ingredients whisk together just until moistened. Bake on a hot, well oiled or buttered griddle or pan. Serve warm with butter melted on top and your favorite topping.

- the less you stir the fluffier they will turn out to be
- heat your pan or griddle on medium, to make sure it's the right temp - splash with water, when the water dances on the pan it is ready
- pancakes are usually ready to turn when the upside turns bubbly and some have burst, this recipe seemed to be so fluffy that I turned just before any of the bubbles burst

Monday, April 2, 2012

Crazy Chocolate Cake

Baking with my kids can mean a lot of patience on my part, but I really like to get them in the kitchen to experience cooking from scratch as I did oh so many years ago. One rainy day I really wanted to make something with them more as a project than for a meal... I got out one of my friend's family recipe books and found an interesting recipe that only called for a few ingredients and a lot of hands on time. PERFECT! That sounded just like what I was looking for, simple but lots of things for little hands to do. It certainly was a success and my kids loved it!

3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 tsp baking soda
3 heaping Tbsp cocoa
pinch salt
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 Tbsp cider vinegar
1 Tbsp vanilla
2 cups water

Sift flour, sugar, baking soda and cocoa three times. Then sift right into a 9x13 inch pan. Make three holes in the mixture (1 large, 1 medium and 1 small). In the large hole, add the oil, in the medium size hole, add the cider vinegar, and in the small hole, add the vanilla. Pour water over entire mixture. Mix thoroughly with a spoon or spatula. Bake at 350' for about 30 minutes.

This was delicious slightly warm straight from the oven. And as we continued to nibble at it over the week, it was great mixed with ice cream or just eaten plain. You can also frost with whatever frosting you wish.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Ambrosia Salad

Ambrosia salad reminds me of 1982. I was about 7 and I remember, that was a salad that I would be happy to eat from the buffet! It had marshmallows and some fruit in it. Well, the holidays always make me reminiscint for times of yesteryear. So this holiday season, I decided to round out my egg casserole and nutella french toast brunch with a festive Holiday Ambrosia Salad!

1 lb fresh cranberries, halved (or approx 2 cups)
1/2 cup sugar
2 oranges
1 (20 oz.) can crushed pineapple, drained
2 diced, unpeeled apples
1 cup seedless grapes, halved

1/2 cup candied pecans chopped
2 cups miniature marshmallows
8 oz. Cool Whip
shredded coconut

Chop cranberries, pour into large bowl and mix with sugar & zest of one orange. Let sit overnight. The next day cut the oranges in half like a grapefruit. Cut the orange halves as if you were sectioning a grapefruit and remove the orange sections. Mix the cranberries, orange sections, pineapple, apples, grapes, pecans and marshmallows. Fold in Cool Whip lightly. Cover and chill. Lightly sprinkle with coconut before serving. Serve with a side of candied pecan pieces and extra coconut for those coconut lovers.